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Finding My Authentic Self

She was just waiting for me to begin the search...

"Are you an authentic woman?" I read from my computer screen.

In 2004 I wrote an essay in response to a question about authenticity I stumbled across on line. My essay began as an angry response. I thought I was angry at the company posting but it turns out I was frustrated - with myself.

Are you an authentic woman?Are you an authentic woman?The question made no sense to me. I pluck my eyebrows, shave my legs, eat more vegetables than I did during my twenties. I have four children, operate a business from home and play butler, chef, taxi driver and all-around chief. I poised my fingers over the mouse, ready to click to another site. But that angry voice wouldn't be silenced. My curvy body, free spirit, and bleeding-heart attitudes rarely fit into the narrow niches carved out by the media and the word "authentic" stirred something inside me.

 

What makes a woman authentic?

I began my letter, "I don't know that I'm an authentic Finding beauty...Finding beauty...woman so much as I am me. I'm not beautiful by the media's standards. I'm not a crafty whiz who thrives on making gifts and treasures for her friends and family. Nor am I anything more or less than what I choose to be. It's taken me 35 years to be able to look in the mirror and actually like what I see there."

Three months later I received a phone call telling me I'd won. Out of 1,000 entrants, I was one of eight women selected to have my photo taken by professional photographers, participate in a fashion show and receive $1,000 worth of designer clothes. Only the last option appealed to me, but I soon realized I'd have to agree to the first two if I wanted the clothes.

I arrived for the photo shoot fully made-up, my hair styled, my push-up bra locked into place like a tourniquet around my rib cage. Linda Lundstrom, the image consultants and the photographers greeted me - make-up free and smiling. I felt like Cinderella who'd arrived the wrong night for the ball.

But am I beautiful enough?

Beautiful me...Beautiful me...The make-up artist walked me to her mirror and asked if I saw beauty when I looked at my reflection. I tried to turn my head, but she steadied me. As my tears washed away my carefully made-up face, she showed me glamorous magazine ads of herself from her younger years. I looked at the aging grandmother and shook my head. All my life I've tried to emulate models in ads, but this plain braless woman, was one of those women. Why don't magazines come with warning labels?

Caution: No one looks like these perfect women. Not even them...

Then, the artist waved her magic wands and began my metamorphosis. She erased laugh lines from around my eyes, frown lines from my forehead and smoothed my face to a perfect, flawless plane. She replaced the muddy circles under my eyes with concealer, blush and highlighter. She left my hair the same, but added her full-throttle hairspray to make it stand up taller, poofier. The woman in the mirror had my eyes and facial features - she was me, only better. I slipped into a $900 outfit and sat the girls up so they peeked just a nipple shy of obscene. Thirty-five years of searching for the beauty within hadn't prepared me for glamorous way I'd feel in front of the camera.

I couldn't get enough of me!

I soon discovered that when it comes to hitting your stride,Is this really me?Is this really me? it's never too late. After a day of being pampered, adored and fawned over by everyone in sight, I felt confident enough to walk the plank at the fashion show the next week. But I didn't know there would be professional models along with us "authentic" ones.

My other contest winner-pals showed up nervous and distracted, but the manager assured us we were, well, beautiful. We tried on our outfits while she fussed over our shoes, our make-up, our jewelry. The other, perfect models, arrived like a hurricane and quickly filled our little dressing room with their duffle bags of cosmetics, shoes and lingerie. They undressed down to their skin, removing even their belly rings. I tried to force my eyes to stare at the clothes, the lights, their hair. But like the stereotypical man, my eyes kept slipping down to their breasts, their thighs, their jiggling bottoms as they hopped from one foot to the other. I'd expected perfection, clear skin without blemishes, wide expanses of firm flesh that glistened and breasts round and plump even without a bra.

What is real beauty?What is real beauty?But these women weren't perfect. An illusion, all an illusion. I watched spellbound as three ordinary women transformed themselves into goddesses. Within moments they changed into the untouchable, the unreachable, the perfect.

I fell into line with the models and strode through the store, third in a line of women wearing sexy slide sandals, swaying my hips to "Maneater". I felt part of the tide of beauty washing over the crowd of spectators. But when I reached the catwalk, I froze. I couldn't force my foot to take the next step. Linda came forward and adjusted the necklace at my throat. I was sure she felt my heart trying to escape, but she moved her cool fingers to my chin and forced me to look at her.

Barely breathing...Barely breathing..."You...You...are beautiful," she whispered with a kiss to my cheek.

I turned my head and locked eyes with my husband. He stood with a camera in his hands and tears on his cheeks. I've spent my life searching for myself, even though who I am is who I've always been and always will be. It's not about make-up, the highlights in my hair or the color of my fingernails. I may not always be able to realize my beauty with a cursory glance in the mirror, but I saw it clear and honest reflected in his eyes.

Suddenly, I realized that beauty is not something you slipJulia & LindaJulia & Linda into or cover up with make-up - that's glamor. Looking into my husband's eyes, I saw the reflection of beauty, a miracle really.

I'm capable of great beauty, plainness or ugliness - it's my decision how I see myself, how I allow myself to be seen.

It's been eight years since my one and only strut during a fashion show but everything in that original essay still rings true. And I'm very thankful to Linda Lundstrom for giving me the opportunity to find a piece of myself I didn't know was missing.

The REAL Julia RosienThe REAL Julia RosienAre you beautiful? Let me give you a hint. Who you are is way more than good enough. Who you are is AMAZING!

How do you define authentic beauty? Share it here or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and let's talk.

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Comments

Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. It's always hard to imagine those who are so beautiful struggle with their own self image. I guess it just shows us what the pressures of our society have done to women's confidences. It's tragic. I too struggle immensely with appearance. I've been skinny and fat - currently on the larger size of the spectrum. I hate how people see and judge me. They assume I eat too much. I don't. Having visited with a nutritionist I discovered it was actually the opposite. I have struggled with my image for my entire life. Didn't matter whether I was "normal" sized or not. I've never felt beautiful. I don't look at myself in the mirror because I've always felt that I don't deserve to look at myself. It's wrong to do it. I look through myself in public washrooms, at the hair dresser, wherever I need to force myself to look to appear normal, but I can't stand doing it. Your story gives me hope.

Yes, you are! But the core beauty comes from our insight so we should focus in it more carefully and try to reveal our inner beauty and I believe every woman has a special charm with the love and care for others. Thanks Julia :) for making me thoughtful about an exclusive fact of life!

I needed this Julia! I'm going to start doing commercials this fall for my company. I'm trying to figure out what about me makes me, me so I can place more emphasis on it. I've had this debate on what my real hair color looks like and do people like brunettes better than blonds and all these other crazy ideas I've generated from the media. The top of my hair is crazy platinum blond right now from being in the sun. Tomorrow I'll try to find my natural hair color! I've pretty much come to the realization that it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. As long as I believe in myself and stand up for what I believe in, I should be good to go.

You know it, Sistah! You are amazing just the way you are and people will remember the sound of your voice, your laugh, the light in your eyes a whole lot longer than they're remember your hair color. Just be you. Thanks for stopping by and making me smile. Can't wait see you light up the screen in a new way! Hugs, Doll.

Julia, your words resonated with me do deeply. I can't thank you enough for sharing such a personal side of yourself. Authenticity is such an important aspect of the journey at we all travel...I wish I had words to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. Actually found myself in tears. (((hugs)))

Lisa, you are wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to let me know how my words touched you. Publishing something so personal is always a little nerve-wracking but I'm glad to do it if it resonates with others. That's what it's all about right - pulling back the curtain and letting others know we're scared inside too. Hugs to you, my dear!

Well said Julia - it is difficult to wade through all the messages that we aren't enough, that we must change ourselves to be worthy. But the truth is that every woman is special and has beauty. And haven't you noticed that it is the inner things that shine through? Kindness, generosity, a sense of humor, compassion - these are the stuff of real lasting beauty.

Stacey, you are 100% right - we are all beautiful, valuable and worthy. A push-up bra and lip liner do not make a beautiful woman - her soul does though. Beauty is where we choose to look for it and I'm thankful for friends who help find my way there. Hugs, Stacey with an *e* :-)

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